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I'll come right out and say it: I'm opposed to free books. I don't mean books from the library. I love libraries and have used and enjoyed them all my life. That's the place to go for free books, not to mention all the other great resources libraries provide. I have vivid memories still of walking to our local library as a child--this was in the days when parents let their ten year old children walk alone the few blocks to the library in the evening. I always borrowed the maximum number of books allowed for children - ten - and often went home and read a couple the same evening.
No, I'm talking about free e-books offered by independent authors, like myself. A few authors who offer their books for free sometimes just want readers for what they have written. Their books is perpetually free, on Amazon, for example. There are ways to arrange this. I believe these people are in the minority, maybe less than ten percent.
The majority of writers who offer their books for free for a few days do so as a marketing tool. It doesn't cost anything other than lost sales, as opposed to some of the different marketing methods that can be employed. If you read the first book in a series, offered free, you might--if you like it--purchase the rest of the novels in the series. As well, when free e-books first started to be offered by Amazon almost a year ago, most authors noticed a definite uptick in sales in the days and weeks following the free days. Under the algorithm Amazon's list of best sellers included those e-books downloaded for free. So one thousand free downloads counted the same as one thousand sales in the determination of a particular book's place on the list. This has now changed.
Websites have emerged that list the free e-books available that day or that week. Some people have downloaded hundreds, even thousands of books, just because they are free. I recently overheard some colleagues agree with glee that there were so many free books out there, they never planned on buying a book again. This may be one of the those situation where while a little was good, a lot has been a mistake. No business can stay in business by giving away their product. But writing is not a business, you say. No, but the writer needs shelter, food and various other necessities of life not to mention a few luxuries and pleasures and these are not available for free. So while we can say with certainty that the best things in life are free, we should not expect books to be in that category. Reasonably priced, yes; but free--no.